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Slavery, Power And Gender

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Chapter Summary

This chapter highlights the importance of slavery for defining the social and cultural order of medievel societies. The saga literature suggests that Old Norse society was defined by the set of 'winnable and loseable attributes' that were expressed primarily through key symbols associated with masculinity and warrior-hood. The chapter examines the female characters which appear in the epic Old English poem Beowulf. The poet's depiction of the character Thryth provides us with an alternative view of the way in which a powerful woman might have been expected to behave. The chapter establishes the fundamental importance of the institution of slavery for the societies of medieval Britain prior to the twelfth century. As a consequence secular perceptions of social order and expressions of power and gender were frequently at odds with the ideology of Christianity.

Keywords: Beowulf; medieval Britain; medievel societies; saga literature; slavery



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